Secure communication

Transport Layer Security (TLS) is a protocol for protecting internet communications. TLS ensures that a communication is not read or changed by another entity. Blackboard Learn uses TLS to secure communications between the Web server and the client machine.

Session management

Session ID lifecycle

Each session in Blackboard Learn is protected by a cryptographically secure session identifier, stored inside a browser cookie. To help protect from session fixation attacks, the session identifier is rotated on page load, after successful login, and after logout.


We set two simple cookie flags as an added measure against session hijacking on the session management-related cookies by default: HttpOnly and Secure.

The session_id and s_session_id cookies are used for session management. These cookies have the HttpOnly flag set. The HttpOnly flag provides an additional layer of protection from unauthorized access by potentially malicious client-side scripts. When TLS is enabled system-wide, though the session_id cookie is still present, only the s_session_id cookie is used for session management. The s_session_id has the added protection of the Secure flag. The JSESSIONID cookie is not related to session management and does not have the HttpOnly nor the Secure flag set.

Session expiration

Sessions automatically expire after a user has been idle beyond a pre-configured duration. Sessions may also be manually expired through an explicit logout.

Session fingerprinting

Session fingerprinting can help detect when a user's session has been hijacked by a malicious attacker. A fingerprint helps uniquely identify users, for example, by using their computer's IP address or the type of browser (User Agent) that they are using. Session fingerprinting is a mitigating control to reduce the risk of session hijacking by a malicious attacker.

Blackboard highly recommends enabling this control. To properly enable this control, you must select both Enable session fingerprinting and Create new session when fingerprinting changes.

Configure session fingerprinting

On the Administrator Panel, under Security, select Session Fingerprint Settings. The following table describes the available fields.

Field Description
Enable session fingerprinting Select Yes to enable session fingerprinting.
Log Location The location to which changes to users' fingerprints will be logged. To view the contents of the log, on the Administrator Panel, under Tools and Utilities, select Logs.
Fingerprint Value Choose which values to include in the session fingerprint: IP address, User agent, or both. To minimize multiple login prompts, it is recommended to use the IP address only, since changes to the IP address should be less frequent than changes to the User Agent.
  • IP address: The IP address is the address of the user's computer. Generally this will not change during a session. However, there are instances where this may occur, for example, when using certain Internet Service Providers.
  • User Agent: The user agent indicates the particular browser the user is using to access the site. In modern websites, the user agent may change frequently due to media players and other browser plugins becoming delegates of the user’s session.
Filter IP Addresses

This option was added with a default ruleset to work around problems with AOL, a U.S. internet service provider. While this feature still works for that unique purpose, it shouldn't be used in any other capacity because there is no control panel to edit the ruleset.

Create new session when fingerprint changes

Select Yes to force a new session to be created when a user's fingerprint changes. For valid hijacking attempts, this will cause the hijacker to see the login page while the user maintains the current session. However, if any false positives occur (as mentioned above in the Fingerprint value section), the user will have to log in again. This is a tradeoff between security and convenience.

A login prompt will appear when the multiple file applet loads when you set "Create new session when fingerprint changes" to Yes.